When Tyrconnell met the King at Cork, he gave his Majesty a plain account of the posture of military affairs. In Ulster, Lieutenant-General Richard Hamilton, at the head of 2,500 regular troops, was holding the rebels in check, from Charlemont to Coleraine; in Munster, Lieutenant-General Justin McCarthy, Lord Mountcashel, had taken Bandon and Castlemartyr; throughout the four provinces, the Catholics, to the number of fifty regiments (probably 30,000 men), had volunteered their services; but for all these volunteers he had only 20,000 old arms of all kinds, not over 1,000 of which were found really valuable. There were besides these, regiments of horse, Tyrconnell's, Russell's, and Galmony's, and one of dragoons, eight small pieces of artillery, but neither stores in the magazines, nor cash in the chest. While at Cork, Tyrconnell, in return for his great exertions, was created a Duke, and General-in-Chief, with De Rosen as second in command.
A week before James reached Dublin, Hamilton had beaten the rebels at Dromore, and driven them in on Coleraine, from before which he wrote urgently for reinforcements. On receipt of this communication, the Council exhibited, for the first time, those radical differences of opinion, amounting almost to factious opposition, which crippled all King James's movements at this period. One party strenuously urged that the King himself should march northward with such troops as could be spared; that his personal appearance before Derry, would immediately occasion the surrender of that city, and that he might in a few weeks, finish in person the campaign of Ulster. Another, at whose head was Tyrconnell, endeavoured to dissuade his Majesty from this course, but he at length decided in favour of the plan of Melfort and his friends. Accordingly, he marched out of Dublin, amid torrents of April rain, on the eighth of that month, intending to form a junction with Hamilton, at Strabane, and thence to advance to Derry. The march was a weary one through a country stripped bare of every sign of life, and desolate beyond description. A week was spent between Dublin and Omagh; at Omagh news of an English fleet on the Foyle caused the King to retrace his steps hastily to Charlemont. At Charlemont, however, intelligence of fresh successes gained by Hamilton and De Rosen, at Cladyford and Strabane, came to restore his confidence; he instantly set forward, despite the tempestuous weather, and the almost impassable roads, and on the eighteenth reached the Irish camp at Johnstown, within four or five miles of Derry.
It was now four months since "the youthhood" of Derry had shut the Watergate against Lord Antrim's regiment, and established within their walls a strange sort of government, including eighteen clergymen and the town democracy. The military command remained with Lieutenant-Colonel Lundy, of Mountjoy's regiment, but the actual government of the town was vested, first, in "Governor" Baker, and afterwards in the Reverend George Walker, rector of Donaghmore, best known to us as Governor Walker. The Town Council had despatched Mr. Cairnes, and subsequently Captain Hamilton, founder of the Abercorn peerage, to England for succour, and had openly proclaimed William and Mary as King and Queen. Defensive works were added, where necessary, and on the very day of the affair of Cladyford, 480 barrels of gunpowder were landed from English ships and conveyed within the walls.
As the Royalist forces concentrated towards Derry, the chiefs of the Protestant Association fell back before them, each bringing to its garrison the contribution of his own followers. From the valley of the Bann, over the rugged summits of Carntogher, from the glens of Donegal, and the western sea coast round to Mayo, troops of the fugitives hurried to the strong town of the London traders, as to a city of refuge. Enniskillen alone, resolute in its insular situation, and in a courage akin to that which actuated the defenders of Derry, stood as an outpost of the main object of attack, and delayed the junction of the Royalists under Mountcashel with those under Hamilton and De Rosen. Coleraine was abandoned. Captain Murray, the commander of Culmore, forced his way at the head of 1,500 men into Derry, contrary to the wishes of the vacillating and suspected Lundy, and, from the moment of his arrival, infused his own determined spirit into all ranks of the inhabitants.
Those who had advised King James to present himself in person before the Protestant stronghold, had not acted altogether, upon presumption. It is certain that there were Jacobites, even in Derry. Lundy, the governor, either despairing of its defence, or undecided in his allegiance between James and William, had opened a correspondence with Hamilton and De Rosen. But the true answer of the brave townsmen, when the King advanced too near their walls, was a cannon shot which killed one of his staff, and the cry of "No Surrender" thundered from the walls. James, awakened from his self-complacent dream by this unexpected reception, returned to Dublin, to open his Parliament, leaving General Hamilton to continue the siege. Colonel Lundy, distrusted, overruled, and menaced, escaped over the walls by night, disguised as a common labourer, and the party of Murray, Baker, Walker, and Cairnes, reigned supreme.
The story of the siege of Derry--of the heroic constancy of its defenders--of the atrocities of De Rosen and Galmoy--the clemency of Maumont--the forbearance of Hamilton--the struggles for supremacy among its magnates--the turbulence of the townsfolk--the joyful raising of the siege--all these have worthily employed some of the most eloquent pens in our language. The relief came by the breaking of the boom across the harbour's mouth on the last day of July; the bombardment had commenced on the 21st of April; the gates had been shut on the 7th of December. The actual siege had lasted above three months, and the blockade about three weeks. The destruction of life on both sides has never been definitely stated. The besieged admit a loss of 4,000 men; the besiegers of 6,000. The want of siege guns in the Jacobite camp is admitted by both parties, but, nevertheless, the defence of the place well deserves to be celebrated, as it has been by an imperial historian, "as the most memorable in British annals."
Scarcely inferior in interest and importance to the siege of Derry, was the spirited defence of Enniskillen. That fine old town, once the seat of the noble family of Maguire, is naturally dyked and moated round about, by the waters of Lough Erne. In December, '88, it had closed its gates, and barricaded its causeways to keep out a Jacobite garrison. In March, on Lord Galmoy's approach, all the outlying garrisons, in Fermanagh and Cavan, had destroyed their posts, and gathered into Enniskillen. The cruel and faithless Galmoy, instead of inspiring terror into the united garrison, only increased their determination to die in the breach. So strong in position and numbers did they find themselves, with the absolute command of the lower Lough Erne to bring in their supplies, that in April they sent off a detachment to the relief of Derry, and in the months of May and June, made several successful forays to Ballincarrig, Omagh, and Belturbet. In July, provided with a fresh supply of ammunition from the fleet intended for the relief of Derry, they beat up the Duke of Berwick's quarters at Trellick, but were repulsed with some loss. The Duke being soon after recalled to join De Rosen, the siege of Enniskillen was committed to Lord Mountcashel, under whom, as commander of the cavalry, served Count Anthony Hamilton, author of the witty but licentious "Memoirs of Grammont," and other distinguished officers. Mountcashel's whole force consisted of three regiments of foot, two of dragoons, and some horse; but he expected to be joined by Colonel Sarsfield from Sligo, and Berwick from Derry. The besieged had drawn four regiments of foot from Cavan alone, and were probably twice that number in all; and they had, in Colonels Wolseley and Berry, able and energetic officers. The Enniskilleners did not await the attack within their fortress. At Lisnaskea, under Berry, they repulsed the advanced guard of the Jacobites under Anthony Hamilton; and the same day--the day of the relief of Derry--their whole force were brought into action with Mountcashel's at Newtown-Butler. To the cry of "No Popery," Wolseley led them into an action, the most considerable yet fought. The raw southern levies on the Royalist side, were routed by the hardy Enniskilleners long familiar with the use of arms, and well acquainted with every inch of the ground; 2,000 of them were left on the field; 400 prisoners were taken, among them dangerously, but not mortally wounded, was the Lieutenant-General himself.
The month of August was a month of general rejoicing for the Williamites of Ulster, De Rosen and Berwick had retreated from Deny; Sarsfield, on his way to join Mountcashel, fell back to Sligo on hearing of his defeat at Newtown-Butler; Culmore, Coleraine, and Ballyshannon, were retaken and well supplied; fugitives returned triumphantly to their homes, in Cavan, Fermanagh, Tyrone, and Armagh. A panic created by false reports spread among his troops at Sligo, compelled Sarsfield to fall still further back to Athlone. Six months after his arrival, with the exception of the forts of Charlemont and Carrickfergus, King James no longer possessed a garrison in that province, which had been bestowed by his grandfather upon the ancestors of those who now unanimously rejected and resisted him.
The fall of the gallant Dundee in the battle of Killicrankie, five days before the relief of Derry, freed King William from immediate anxiety on the side of Scotland, and enabled him to concentrate his whole disposable force on Ireland. On the 13th of August, an army of eighteen regiments of foot, and four or five of horse, under the Marshal Duke de Schomberg, with Count Solmes as second in command, sailed into Belfast Lough, and took possession of the town. On the 20th, the Marshal opened a fierce cannonade on Carrickfergus, defended by Colonels McCarthy More and Cormac O'Neil, while the fleet bombarded it from sea. After eight days' incessant cannonade, the garrison surrendered on honourable terms, and Schomberg faced southward towards Dublin. Brave, and long experienced, the aged Duke moved according to the cautious maxims of the military school in which he had been educated. Had he advanced rapidly on the capital, James must have fallen back, as De Rosen advised, on the line of the Shannon; but O'Regan, at Charlemont, and Berwick, at Newry, seemed to him obstacles so serious, that nearly a month was wasted in advancing from Belfast to Dundalk, where he entrenched himself in September, and went into whiter quarters. Here a terrible dysentery broke out among his troops, said to have been introduced by some soldiers from Derry, and so destructive were its ravages, that there were hardly left healthy men enough to bury the dead. Several of the French Catholics under his command, also, deserted to James, who, from his head-quarters at Drogheda, offered every inducement to the deserters. Others discovered in the attempt were tried and hanged, and others, still suspected of similar designs, were marched down to Carlingford, and shipped for England. In November, James returned from Drogheda to Dublin, much elated that Duke Schomberg, whose fatal camp at Dundalk he had in vain attempted to raise, had shrunk from meeting him in the field.